Birch Bay, Washington is a pretty beach community 10 minutes south of the Canadian border.
Popular with Canadians and Washingtonians, Birch Bay is busy in the summer and quiet in the winter.
We spent summer 2020 in Birch Bay. It was quiet with the border closed (and, you know, the global pandemic). However, we still found plenty of fun things to do in Birch Bay and nearby.
Looking for the best must see sights and the top things to do in Birch Bay? Here are our recommendations.
1) Visit During Fourth of July
Fourth of July in Birch Bay, Washington is spectacular. The bay is perfect for fireworks. From a central location, you can view fireworks from one end of the bay to the other – and boy do people take advantage.
July 4, 2020 was the first time I spent Fourth of July in the United States. I knew they loved fireworks. But Birch Bay’s Fourth of July fireworks blew those out of the water.
For several hours after sunset, we watched millions of dollars of fireworks explode into the air above the bay. Because it was the middle of the pandemic, there was no official town or county fireworks show. These fireworks were all provided by locals.
Of course, the weather is also perfect in early July.
Overall, Birch Bay’s waterfront is one of the best places in America to spend Fourth of July.
2) Visit Birch Bay State Park
The south end of the community of Birch Bay is home to Birch Bay State Park. Surrounded by wetlands and a campground, Birch Bay State Park provides excellent views over the bay.
On a clear day, you can see the North Shore mountains above Vancouver from the park. You can also see the Cascades, Vancouver Island, and multiple gulf islands.
You can walk to Birch Bay State Park for free. If you’re driving, you need a park pass. There’s a small parking area outside of the park where you can walk in. Park enforcement officers can and do check tickets.
3) Paddleboard or Kayak the Bay
You’ll see plenty of paddleboarders and kayakers on Birch Bay. Get to the water during sunset for the best views.
You can launch a paddleboard or kayak anywhere around the bay. You can paddle straight out into the bay. Or, you can follow one end of the bay to the north or south.
The bay is generally calm, and it’s naturally sheltered from the elements. If you’re inexperienced, avoid venturing out to the edge of the bay where it meets the Strait of Georgia.
If you have a bigger boat, you can launch a powerboat or sailboat at Birch Bay State Park or nearby marinas.
4) Hit the Beach
Birch Bay’s beach isn’t a pristine, white sand beach like you see in tropical places. Instead, it’s a rockier beach. At low tide, however, you can still find plenty of places to pull up a chair, build a sand castle, and relax.
The best beach in Birch Bay is the beach at Birch Bay State Park. It’s the sandiest and largest spot in the area.
However, you can also find Semiahoo Spit and Semiahmoo Park nearby or Point Whitehorse Reserve Beach (after a one mile hike). Or, you can pull up a chair anywhere around Birch Bay. Most of the water access is open to the public.
5) Check Out a Bar or Brewery for Happy Hour
After a thirsty day hiking or paddling, consider checking out a local bar for happy hour.
In late 2020, Birch Bay finally got its first brewery. Beach Cat Brewing is located in the heart of town and has a patio overlooking the water. It’s a great place for sunset.
With its location, Beach Cat Brewing could make bad beer and still be successful. Fortunately, the beer is very good. Growlers fills and four-packs are a little expensive ($20 USD each). However, the beer is great and the views are better.
We also recommend The Beach at Birch Bay, which calls itself “the world’s only 5 star dive bar.” For a dive bar, The Beach has a surprisingly good selection of local craft beers and food along with a great patio. Trivia nights were always fun, and they have live music on weekends.
Bay Breeze has a rooftop patio, Shores Restaurant has a patio with a view, and CJ’s Beach House serves seafood, steaks, and burgers overlooking the water.
All of these places are within a 200 foot radius in the middle of Birch Bay.
6) Cruise the Birch Bay Waterslides
Driving into Birch Bay from the freeway, you can’t miss the Birch Bay Waterslides. It’s a small waterpark that has been a local institution for 35+ years.
With eight slides, a kiddy pool, an activity pool, and a hot tub, the Birch Bay Waterslides can easily provide several hours of entertainment for a family.
Although the waterslides were closed for summer 2020, they’re open for 2021 (starting June 30). Tickets are priced at $15 per day. Late day tickets are $10 (go after 3pm).
7) Take a Day Trip to Hikes or National Parks
This was our first time visiting western Washington, and we took full advantage. Birch Bay has great day trip potential, and it’s easy to reach multiple national parks from Birch Bay.
Some of the day trips we recommend include:
Hike and Drive Around Mt. Baker: Drive to the top of Mt. Baker for incredible views. They literally built a road to the top of an 11,000 foot mountain. The road is snowy even into the summer, and the top of the road was still closed when we visited in July. There are lots of hikes in and around Mt. Baker for all difficulties. In winter, of course, you can ski at Mt. Baker.
Drive through North Cascades National Park: North Cascades National Park is one of the least-visited national parks in the United States. The road through the park is closed much of the year. It’s open in summer, however, and it’s worth a day trip. You can easily make it to the far end of North Cascades National Park and back in a day. There are plenty of advanced hikes in the park, but most just drive through the mountain pass from one end to the other. Expect incredible views on every inch of the pass.
Visit Bellingham: Bellingham is a picturesque city that feels a world away from Seattle. Visit one of the many breweries in Bellingham. Or, walk through Fairhaven.
Take a Hike: Most of the best Birch Bay hikes are found around Bellingham, including Chuckanut Drive, Larrabee State Park, and Lake Whatcom. The Oyster Dome trailhead from Samish Overlook is one of the best hikes in the region, providing incredible views over the ocean and the islands.
Visit the Islands: Orcas Island and other notable islands aren’t far from Birch Bay. Although we didn’t make it to the islands while we were in Birch Bay, towns like Friday Harbor look beautiful for overnight trips, day trips, or weekend visits.
Final Word: Birch Bay, Washington is a Hidden Gem
We loved the short time we spent in Birch Bay, Washington. It’s a part of the country many Americans never visit. Although everyone in Vancouver has been to Bellingham, few Americans seem to venture north of Seattle – and it’s kind of nice that way.
I definitely recommend visiting Birch Bay, Washington for a laidback summer destination.